Sarah Palin, Tea-Party Texas Textbook Trivializers, and the Heartless Bastards
Without a second to breathe or to blog the last several days, and for the next several as well, my thanks to John Fea for finding this classic of contemporary popular historical interpretation: a dialogue between noted historians Bill O'Reilly and Sarah Palin:
Read John's gentle, admirably patient, but devastating blog post on this subject for more. John rightly emphasizes the complexity of the history of America's founding -- or any history, for that matter. As he writes,
Any student of the past knows that history is complicated and complex. Documents need to be understood in context. Interpretation of documents are essential to a fuller understanding of the motivations of the founders of this country. It is this kind of knee-jerk, sound-bite simplicity that I am hoping to address in my forthcoming book, Was America Founded as a Christian Nation?: An Historical Primer (2011).
On a related subject, here is the History News Network roundup of historians' responses to the Great Texas Textbook Massacre. John Willingham, "The God in Whom We Should Trust," covers the religious angle of the controversy, interestingly from the perspective of William James and Isaiah Berlin.
Best yet, Mark Lilla, "The Tea Party Jacobins," takes a hammer forged by Christopher Lasch to certain contemporary apocalyptic rhetoricians:
Quite apart from the movement’s effect on the balance of party power, which should be short-lived, it has given us a new political type: the antipolitical Jacobin. The new Jacobins have two classic American traits that have grown much more pronounced in recent decades: blanket distrust of institutions and an astonishing—and unwarranted—confidence in the self. They are apocalyptic pessimists about public life and childlike optimists swaddled in self-esteem when it comes to their own powers.
I think I prefer the opposite (i.e. apocalyptic pessimists when it comes to our own powers), hence my growing love for the Heartless Bastards, a group normally found in hipper regions but unaccountably playing in my sleepy home town this week. In "Hold Your Head High," lead singer Erika Wennerstrom wails out, "You see I've got this fascination with all the wrong ways to go/I get lost even in the places I know." I may be too old and finals-addled to stay awake long enough for their debut, but amid the dreary chatter replayed above, The Mountain stands as a stiff drink and poetic antidote (lyrics are a little hard to make out here, but may be found here):